Under-fire skipper Dinesh Karthik sent a strong message to his critics with an unbeaten 97 to lift Kolkata Knight Riders to a challenging 175/6. But the captain’s knock went in vain as Rajasthan Royals sealed a thrilling last-over finish at the Eden Gardens on Thursday.
Facing flak for not returning to the city after their fifth straight defeat to Sunrisers Hyderabad and going to Mumbai, Karthik, who hasn’t been among runs, remained unbeaten, with his score of 50 balls including seven fours and nine sixes.
This is Karthik’s highest score in the IPL, with his previous best being 86.
DK averaged 16.71 from nine innings this season before Thursday’s knock.
On a day Andre Russell (14) failed after a string of good performances, KKR made up for their sloppy start to score 126 runs in the last ten overs after being 49/3 at the halfway stage.
Karthik pushed himself up the order at No. 4 to recover from a slow start — he was 3 off 10 balls initially — to pace his innings to perfection as he sent the likes of Jofra Archer, Jaydev Unadkat and Shreyas Gopal to the cleaners.
The under-fire stumper batsman clubbed the first six of the innings in the 11th over, and had 8 more sixes by the end of KKR innings. Karthik’s 97* is the second highest score by a KKR batsman behind Brendon McCullum’s 158*.
However, DK couldn’t enjoy his personal success as his team slumped to its sixth loss in a row. Disappointment was written all over his face during the post-match presentation.
“Little disappointed. Thought we were in it to win, but it wasn’t our day. I have kept saying that winning always feels good, but when you lose close games like this you feel ‘wow, when are we gonna get there’. Happy with the way boys fought, not happy with the result. A lot of it will boil down to how much they trust me as a leader. It’s important to keep the mood in the dressing room good. The fact that we are not able to cross the winning line is not a good feeling.” said the KKR skipper.
Losing isn’t fun, but removing DK not discussed: Kallis
Earlier on Tuesday, KKR head coach Jacques Kallis said he hasn’t been in touch with skipper Karthik or co-owner Shah Rukh Khan since their loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad.
KKR decided to let a few of their players travel to Mumbai and train at their academy before the next game against Rajasthan Royals on Thursday, even as rest of the team was given time to regroup.
This was after they lost their last game — fifth in a row — to Hyderabad at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. While the likes of Russell headed back to Kolkata, Karthik and some other players headed to Mumbai.
Kallis was asked about Shah Rukh’s message after the loss last Sunday which pegged them further in their bid to make the playoffs for the fourth time in row.
“I haven’t chatted to him since the guys have been in Mumbai. In fact, I think DK went home for a day as well. So we will catch up tomorrow and have a debrief and plan away going forward again for the next game,” Kallis said.
SRK tweets about KKR winning games for Russell
Shah Rukh had tweeted after KKR’s loss to Royal Challengers Bangalore that the team should win some games for Russell who has been their lone ranger.
Asked if SRK is unhappy, Kallis said: “We all want to perform a little bit better. Yeah, I think everyone’s in that space where we just want to get up and play better cricket and get back on winning ways. Losing certainly isn’t fun.”
Russell unhappy with his batting position
While SRK has spoken about winning games for Russell, the Windies all-rounder isn’t happy with his own batting position and feels he should be batting higher in the order. Kallis too admitted that it is an area that needs to be looked into.
“Rinku (Singh) went in, in the 8th over and certainly haven’t sent Andre in that early. They got a partnership (51 runs with Chris Lynn) going.
“In hindsight, maybe we could have sent him a bit earlier. But it certainly hadn’t been one of our plans. But if a situation arises then it’s something that we will think of,” he said.
Russell came out to bat at No.7 and scored a 9-ball 15 as KKR could manage 159/8, which was not enough in the end as they lost by nine wickets.
Kallis said there’s been no discussion on removing Karthik from the captaincy at the business end of the season. “No, we haven’t discussed it, nor has it been brought up,” he said.
On the Mumbai break, Kallis said the guys needed to regroup, adding there is no pressure on Karthik regarding his captaincy. “We felt the guys needed a break. Guys are given freedom to do what they want to for the next couple of days. It has been a disappointing couple of games for us so we thought that guys can go and do what they want – go home or some guys felt they wanted to have some middle practice which we couldn’t get here, which we could get in Mumbai.”
Kallis admitted the players are frustrated, but realise they can still turn it around. “I think the guys are frustrated. They do realize that we still have chance of qualifying and we’re just going to play some good cricket and I’ll say the longer we are in it in this format, there are little percentages that you need to improve in order to turn these things around and we’re not far off,” he explained.
KKR now need to win all of their remaining three games and hope for other results to go their way in order to qualify for the playoffs. “We’ve done it before. We have won 11 in a row… Certainly it’s possible and the guys will try hard both off the field and on the field. We will be up for the game, that’s for sure. It’s almost like there is no tomorrow for us now. Hopefully we can repeat that again this year.”
In 2014, KKR had won nine games on the bounce including the final to lift their second IPL trophy under Gautam Gambhir. KKR are currently placed sixth in the points table with eight points from 11 matches.
With Agency Inputs